National Chess Championships
Ranindu Liyanage of Ananda College and Nethmi Fernando of Girls High School, Kandy topped the tables at the end of the first half of the National Chess Championships held at the Sri Lanka Chess Federation Headquarters, Colombo. The tournaments are held according to a round-robin system with 14 players each battling out in the men’s and women’s category to be crowned as National Chess Champion. Amidst the prevailing health situation, the Chess Federation has successfully been able to conduct the topmost tournament in the Sri Lankan Chess Calendar. Chess Federation of Sri Lanka is offering Rs. 320,000.00 in cash and other attractive prizes for the winners. The champion will receive Rs. 100,000.00.
The men’s section ended the week with the top three seeded players finishing on the top of the tables but as history suggests the second half of the tournament is likely to bring a few surprises. The tournament started on Friday with the top two seeded players Susal de Silva (Nalanda College) and Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage facing off against the two veteran Sri Lankan players IM Romesh Weerawardane (Fischer CC) and FM Anuruddha Chinthaka (Kandy YMCA) where the two youngsters came on top scoring wins to kick start their battle for the title. Ranindu then stormed to take the lead after the fifth round victory over Maheesha Dabarera (Maliyadeva College) whilst Susal and FM Minul Doluweera (Royal College) conceded defeats. At the end of the 1st week, Ranindu was leading the pack with six points. Minul (5 points) and Susal (4.5 points) were behind him.
There were a few interesting mid-table performances as well, notably from the new attacking player from Jaffna S. Sivathanujan (Grand Prix Chess Club) who went on to upset a few experienced players by scoring strong wins. He is tied at 6th place with Maheesha Dabarera, Theekshana Denuwan (Ananda College) and Rasika Samaranayaka (University of Peradeniya) whilst the veterans Anuruddha and Romesh were in the fourth and fifth positions respectively.
In the women’s section Nethmi Fernando stormed to a massive lead by the end of the week. She has already played against the next two players chasing her for the title as well as the reigning National Champion. It was simply a dominant performance where only Ehsha Pallie (Visakha Vidyalaya) could hold her to a draw in the opening week. Ashvini Pavalachandran (Wycherley International) who was leading the chase was 1.5 points behind Nethmi whilst two Visakians Ehsha Pallie and WFM Nevanjee Hewawasam were two points behind.
Defending Champion Sayuni Gihansa Jayaweera (Dharmasoka College) had a slow start to the tournament and was sitting in the bottom half of the table whilst former National women’s Champion, WIM Sachini Ranasinghe (NF3 CC) also had a slow start to the tournament. Ranasinghe later caught up the pace and was in the fifth place and yet may pose a serious threat to the title contenders with a strong second half.
The rest of the pack sharing the fifth place include Hashara Abeysinghe (NSBM), Tharushi Sandeepani (Devi Balika Vidyalaya) and Tharushi Niklesha (Visakha Vidyalaya).
The next set of games will be conducted from 19th (Saturday) to 21st.
Dilshi stamps her class with national record
Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships
by Reemus Fernando
Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.
Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.
The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.
Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.
Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).
On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.
In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.
In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.
The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.
Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.
The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.
COPE; a toothless tiger?
by Rex Clementine
Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the legislature.
Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.
In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.
There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.
Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.
However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.
At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.
The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law. From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.
Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title
Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday.
Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final.
In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4.
Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.
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